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Judge Extends Seal of 'Angel of Death' Files

September 23, 2000|SUE FOX

A judge ordered Friday that documents filed by the city of Glendale detailing the so-called "Angel of Death" murder investigation be sealed for at least another month, preventing their release to attorneys and the news media.

Citing a need to protect the ongoing investigation, Burbank Superior Court Judge Carl J. West said he will review the materials and decide whether any can be made public without compromising a police inquiry that has already taken more than two years.

Glendale detectives and city officials have steadfastly refused to discuss details of the case of Efren Saldivar, a former respiratory therapist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center. In March 1998, Glendale police said Saldivar confessed to 40 to 50 mercy killings at the hospital, calling himself the "Angel of Death."

Saldivar, 30, was arrested but has not been charged in the case. He later recanted, saying he was depressed at the time and had made everything up.

Several families have sued Saldivar for wrongful death, including the family of 91-year-old John N. Schwartz, who died in 1993 after hip replacement surgery. Saldivar's attorney, Terry M. Goldberg, is seeking autopsy and toxicology reports and a deposition from Glendale Police Det. William Currie.

"It seems to me what they are trying to do is stall, because they don't have a videotape or audiotape of the confession," Goldberg said. "What we want is the evidence disclosed that will exonerate [Saldivar] so he can go on with his life."

West ordered that a log of each document be prepared and submitted under seal before a scheduled Oct. 20 hearing on the matter.

"I recognize that the mere identification of certain documents could compromise the investigation," he said.

But the judge, who previously ordered the city to produce a timetable for wrapping up the investigation, reminded Glendale officials: "It cannot go on indefinitely."

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